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Friday, June 30, 2017

Stay the Course

The Jewish people complained to Moshe that they had no water and Hashem told Moshe Rabbeinu to speak to a rock. Moshe, we are told, did not do exactly as he was commanded, rather than speaking to the rock he hit the rock.

Why didn’t Moshe speak to the rock as commanded? After all, Hashem had said ‘vedibartem el haselah” “speak to the rock”?

Rashi explains that Moshe did try speaking to the rock. He spoke to the rock in front of all of those complaining Israelites – but nothing happened. Moshe had to reconsider. This was an awful moment. The Jews were complaining and threatening to go back to Mitzrayim. He was trying to convince them otherwise, and it wasn’t working.

Moshe decided that when Hashem said to speak to the rock he had meant to speak with it in rock language. After all, you can’t have an effect on a rock by speaking to it. He took his staff – which Hashem had told him to bring – and hit the nearest rock. Sure enough, water came out.

Imagine that you are trying to get soda out of a soda machine. You put in your money but nothing comes out. You might start by calling the number on the machine and davening softly, but eventually you will just give in and kick the machine. We all do it.

Rav Elimelech Resnick of the Mir Yeshiva explains that Moshe Rabbeinu should never have given in. Hashem said, “I am punishing you because you did not believe in Me, to sanctify Me”. Moshe should have stuck with the word of G-d.

Someone once came to Rav Elyashiv and quoted the Gemara that says that a person who has bad middos can’t learn Torah properly. He explained that he knew a Torah scholar with bad Middos and suggested an alternate explanation of the Gemara.

Rav Elyashiv said: You may have the wrong understanding of a Torah scholar or the wrong understanding of Middos, but the Gemara is right. You can’ just find an alternate explanation because the one you know of doesn’t seem to be working. You need to have a little more Emunah, a little more faith.

I was once in the kosher section of Farm Fresh. There was a woman walking up and down the aisles was clearly not Jewish and not a regular Kosher eater. I didn’t know if she was looking for Gefilte Fish or Kishke or just the proper way to spell Keneidel. When she became aware of the rabbi in her midst she approached me for help.

She was looking for hamentachen. There were none in Farm Fresh, but I helpfully suggested that she make some on her own. I told her to use an upside down glass to cut the dough into circles and to put jelly in the middle of each circle. She looked at me like I was crazy. “No”, she said, “they are supposed to be fruit filled triangles; not jelly filled circles”. I tried to explain, but she walked away.

I tried to think about why it bothered me so much that this woman was going to make her hamentachen wrong. She was making them for a church group in the middle of June. Why was I being so frum about them?

I realized that it was probably because I felt like I had the true tradition in Hamentachen. The process and methodology that I shared with her came from my mother and presumably my grandmother and great-grandmother. We’ve been making hamentachen for thousands of years and will not take kindly to some woman in Farm Fresh reinventing the wheel (or the triangle).

Hamentachen are not very important, but so much of our tradition is. We have mitzvos and words of wisdom that have come from hashed, changed the world and withstood the test of time. Sometimes we get discouraged and frustrated, even embarrassed. We need to think of Moshe talking to the rock with all of the Jewish people grumbling. Nothing was happening but he should have stayed the course and continued talking.

We need to remember not to lose faith and to remain strong in following the ways of Hashem. We also need to thank Hashem for making it work and helping us out even when we falter.

Good Shabbos.

Posted on 06/30 at 03:38 PM • Permalink
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Meet Rabbi Sender Haber

Rabbi Sender Haber is the Rabbi of the B'nai Israel Congregation in Norfolk, VA. He is well known throughout Hampton Roads, having arrived over twelve years ago as one of the original four members of the Norfolk Area Community Kollel. In that capacity, Rabbi Haber was involved in community wide programming, teaching, and outreach. He has inspired many Jews to expand their Jewish identity and increase their love of Torah and commitment to its observance. Everyone who knows Rabbi Haber is touched by his breadth of Torah knowledge and his ability to convey the wisdom of the ages in such a way as to make those esoteric writings accessible to persons of all levels of experience and a variety of backgrounds.

Rabbi Haber has served in a number of capacities during his years in Norfolk. Since 2003 Rabbi Haber has been a teacher of Jewish Studies at Toras Chaim Day School in Portsmouth, teaching boys and girls of all ages, with a focus on Gemara, Halacha, and Chumash. He has also taught at Yeshivas Aish Kodesh and Bina High School in Norfolk, and served as Assistant Rabbi of B’nai Israel for 6 years. He also serves as the Rabbi of the “Lost Tribe,” Tidewater’s Jewish Motorcycle group! While handling all of these responsibilities, he has continued to participate in numerous Chavrusos (one-on-one learning partnerships) covering a wide range of topics and writings.

Rabbi Haber and his wife Chamie have been married for thirteen years. They have four children, Minna (9), Moshe (6), Ely (4), and Akiva Meir, born in August of 2012. They both come from rabbinic families steeped in Torah, Kiruv and Chesed. Rabbi Haber received his Rabbinic Ordination (Yoreh Yoreh) from Rabbi Sender Rosenbloom and Rabbi Mordechai Freidlander of the Jerusalem Beth Din. He was awarded a Teaching Certificate by Torah Umesorah Association for Jewish Day Schools in 2004 and again in 2009. In addition, Rabbi Haber has spent over a decade studying Talmud, Jewish Law, and ethics in some of the world’s most prestigious Yeshivos including Beth Medrash Gavoha in Lakewood, NJ and Yeshivas Mir in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Haber can be contacted through the Synagogue office at 757-627-7358, or through e-mail at